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Use social media to spread the word

As Autism Awareness Month draws to a close, the Directors of Spectrum Possibilities are calling on journalists across all forms of the information media to engage in deeper analysis of international and local autism issues and the inter-connection of autism issues across the world.

Executive Director Deborah Thompson-Smith, is encouraging journalists to utilise their access to electronic contacts through various social media such as email, Facebook, Skype, Facetime, Twitter, etc. to make contact with international experts in the field of autism intervention, treatment, recovery and lifetime care, so that their reporting can come from primary sources rather than second hand reporting from other television, print or electronic news reports.

Across a year, there is a lot of new research published on autism and the directors wish to see this new information reported on and consideration given to implications for people with autism in our population. The directors of the charity have found that many experts in the field are quite willing to participate in interviews about their work and research findings. Acknowledging that autism remains a controversial condition in terms of its possible causes, as well as with respect to reports on varied outcomes for persons with the disorder to recover or having to manage autism across the lifetime, the charity is concerned that local reporting on autism has up to this point been cautious and avoidant of any controversial issues.

Thompson-Smith offers a short list of possible topics for further investigation including:

1)The absence of research on autism in Barbados – The Centers for Disease Control in the USA recently stated that the rate of autism in the USA is one in 50 children, which according to the CDC, represents a 72 per cent increase in four years. There needs to be an investigation of the rate in Barbados and establishment of a system for monitoring whether there is an increase over time.

2) Greater emphasis on environmental factors over genetic – A 2011 Stanford University School of Medicine Study found an unexpectedly large role of environmental factors in determining the risk for autism. This challenges the previous view of autism as a predominantly genetic disorder. Does Barbados have oversight systems on our use of possible environmental toxins in agriculture, manufacturing, technology, medicine and household use and the implications for maternal and child health in Barbados?

3) Recovery from Autism – January, 2013 research by Dr. Deborah Fein of the University of Connecticut, found that a small but significant group of children with autism can recover completely, which has implications for our understanding of the condition as a life-long disorder. Are there any cases in Barbados that suggest recovery from autism is occurring or has occurred here? Is the pursuit of autism recovery in Barbados a priority on anyone’s agenda?

4) Governmental response to the incidence of autism and consequent social care needs – In response to a reported increase in the rate of autism, USA Congressional Hearings on Autism have been ongoing since 2012 seeking to comprehensively address a wide range of autism issues. What priority has been given by our government to address the real issues of autism in a specific and targeted manner?

The charity’s directors believe that we are all merely scratching the surface of autism awareness and much more needs to be done than just describe the disorder and report on the challenges of a few families annually. They strongly believe that there is an urgent need for deeper investigative reporting and critical analysis on autism issues in Barbados, to accelerate meaningful and lasting change in the lives of families coping with this disorder. They see journalists as well placed to further investigate these kinds of issues and inform the public accordingly.

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